“Trail to Laredo”

June 27, 2008

Opening narration: “You’ve all heard the old saying, ‘a man is known by the company that he keeps.’ In the early days, it wasn’t too hard to figure that any man who threw in his brand with outlaws like these did not have the makings of a good citizen. On the other hand, the man who joined up with good company was certain to have fine qualities and good intentions. But what about a man who kept no company? Who always worked alone? A masked man who road a spirited white horse. What side was he on?”

That’s an easy question. The answer is our side. And we’ve got real good company over here, with Les Adams, Steve Chaput, Jack Hailey, Bruce Hickey and Mun Mun riding alongside. Thanks to you, and my other readers, for taking his trail with me.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

This 1948 entry comes approximately half-way through the Durango Kid’s run. Dan Parks discovers that his crooked partner is in cahoots with bad guys smuggling stolen gold. They frame Dan for robbery, and then murder. Steve Ellison used to ride with Dan Parks “up in the Panhandle.”

He’s also a Treasury Agent. And, in a first, so is Smiley. We first meet him as a window repairman, but he’s undercover. “How am I doing?” he whispers to Steve. “Great.” “Learn anything about the smuggled gold?” “Plenty!”

We’ve seen Smiley where he knows Steve is an agent (and we’ve seen it when he doesn’t, and when he doesn’t know Steve at all, and other configurations) but we’ve never seen him also know that Steve is the Durango Kid! Steve says of a bad guy, “I think I’ll throw a scare into him.” Smiley nods knowingly. Cut to Durango pulling a gun on said bad guy.

Durango is posing as an outlaw for much of this film, so Charley gets to play him rougher and meaner than usual.

There’s some footage of Durango stealing gold from the hide-out of the bad guys and driving it away on a wagon by riding behind it and shooting at the horse. We’ve see this footage before, in the 1946 “Heading West.”

The music is provided by the Cass County Players. The singer is Virginia Maxey who was a nightclub singer who made four films in her career, all in 1948. This is the first one. She’s also the love interest. She’s also tiny. Like just a hair taller than Tommy Ivo, the kid in this.

Smiley paints the saloon. He makes a mess. It’s a tough call, but I would have to nominate this clearly improvised scene for the most unfunny bit Smiley has ever done. And that’s saying alot.

Sadly, to get back to the narration at the top, Durango did not ride alone. The company that he kept was Smiley. I shudder to think what that says about him.